When we lived on the lake, I was often asked by old friends about my retirement activities, and what I did to amuse myself all the livelong day. Most of them assumed I did a lot of fishing. And they were right, to a point.
In my opinion, there are few pleasures in life to compare to the joys of fishing. But only, of course, if it’s done properly—that is, my way.
It’s probably true that there are as many ways to fish as there are people who go fishing. So, the proper procedures will be defined differently by each of us. My routine would undoubtedly be totally inappropriate for anyone else.
I developed it as a younger man camping in the wilds of northern Ontario, and it was perfection, itself—or almost, since there was one flaw, which I shall come to shortly.
As I remember it, the proper fishing excursion began quite early in the morning, when all save the birds were still asleep. I would rise quietly, so gently as to pass unnoticed by comrades on my way from the tent to the water’s edge. The canoe, already laden with the necessary gear, would be launched smoothly, silently, into the mist-enshrouded lake.
My body would stretch exultantly as the paddle cut deeply through the water’s ebony surface. For a time, nothing would be heard but the soothing hiss of the canoe across the lake. My happiness was absolute.
I’d watch as the mist lifted, a curtain rising before an audience of one. Wet, wraith-like wisps would seek to flee the warming sun—frantic, elusive phantoms ruthlessly pursued until thrust from its gaze.
I’d be well offshore when the sun brought the forest alight in greens, bouncing and careening its way through the translucent leaves. Dark shade-spots would climb the stretching tree-trunks, dance across leaves turned to face the morning light, and then suddenly vanish.
The lake—its diamond-dancing surface reflecting morning back to bluing sky—would part before my craft, bowing away in widening ripples to lap gently against the shore of a small inlet I might find. I was in awe of the panorama of sunlit trees reflected in the mirrored mere—quicksilver, green, and cold.
The lilting lament of a loon might be all that would break the silence. Great granite slabs, topped by bush and trees, slanted from on high down into the lake, which tossed back their image from its glassy depths.
Peace would reign, rampant upon nature’s canvas.
Alas, it would not last. For to begin fishing was to interrupt that sylvan sequence of morning life, to disturb its natural ebb and flow. Yet, not to cast a line was to deny the purpose of the visit.
And therein lay the flaw in my perfect way to fish. The act of fishing became almost a sacrilege in nature’s cathedral of calm, and thus devoid of any joy. All the pleasure had come from just being there.
So, I had to adapt in order to come to grips with the incongruity of being a fisherman who didn’t like to fish. I made sure my tackle-box always contained a book or two, a novel, perhaps, or a chosen book of verse. It held my harmonica, a ‘one-man band’ with which I could while away countless hours. And there was always a camera, loaded and ready.
In short, I still went fishing, but I did not fish. When I’d reach the perfect spot, I’d cease my paddling, sink back in the bottom of the canoe, and just drift ‘til it was time to go back.
Water-bugs would skitter their erratic dash across the water, an occasional fish would jump with a splash. When a kingfisher darted down to stand on the prow of the canoe, I knew I’d become a piece of the very scene I was observing.
I was one with my surroundings—at once apart and a part.
There were inevitable questions, of course, when I’d return from an excursion. Where did I fish? What bait was I using? Did I catch anything?
I’d reply that nothing was biting, or that there were only a few nibbles.
In that respect, I guess, I was like all true fishermen. I would never tell anyone where I’d found my favourite fishing-hole.
That would have spoiled it.